According to an Associated Press piece early this morning titled US secretly created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest, the US Government has quietly been prepping Cubans for “smart mobs” and possible political change:
Documents show the U.S. government planned to build a subscriber base through “non-controversial content”: news messages on soccer, music, and hurricane updates. Later when the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice that might trigger a Cuban Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”
At its peak, the project drew in more than 40,000 Cubans to share news and exchange opinions. But its subscribers were never aware it was created by the U.S. government, or that American contractors were gathering their private data in the hope that it might be used for political purposes.
“There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement,” according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord, one of the project’s contractors. “This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission.”
It’s not as though Howard hadn’t already identified the possibility — on page 158 of Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, he told us about the January 20 2001 fall of the Joseph Estrada regime in the Phillipines as a result of texting and smart mobs:
Tens of thousands of Filipinos converged on Epifanio de los Santas Avenue, known as “Edsa,” within an hour of the first text message volleys: ‘Go 2EDSA, Wear blck.’ Over four days, more than a million citizens showed up, mostly dressed in black. Estrada fell. The legend of “Generation Txt” was born.
Howard published those words in 2002: apparently USAID got the message.
Howard has moved on since then. He’ll be teaching Toward a Literacy of Cooperation: Introduction to Cooperation Theory from April 30 – June 5, 2014 online — and last I heard, there were still some seats available. Click the link to see the course outline — its now 2014, and Howard’s as far ahead of the curve as ever.